The timeless and timely intersect in poems about our unique historical moment, from the prizewinning poet.
In Zoom Rooms, Mary Jo Salter considers the strangeness of our recent existence, together with the enduring constants in our lives.
The title poem, a series of sonnet-sized Zoom meetings—a classroom, a memorial service, an encounter with a new baby in the family—finds humor and pathos in our age of social distancing and technology-induced proximity. Salter shows too how imagination collapses time and space: in “Island Diaries,” the pragmatist Robinson Crusoe meets on the beach a shipwrecked dreamer from an earlier century, Shakespeare’s Prospero. Poems that meditate on objects—a silk blouse, a hot water bottle—address the human need to heal and console. Our paradoxically solitary but communal experiences find expression, too, in poems about art, from a Walker Evans photograph to a gilded Giotto altarpiece.
In these beautiful new poems, Salter directs us to moments we may otherwise miss, reminding us that alertness is itself a form of gratitude.
About the Author
MARY JO SALTER is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of eight previous poetry collections and a children’s book, and is a co-editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry. She lives in Baltimore.
"What I so admire about Salter’s work is that directness never comes at the expense of deep thought, nor does a baseline cheerfulness and willingness to be persuaded by life’s pleasure exist without acknowledgement of senselessness and strife . . . Salter captures how our experiences of beauty aren’t quite articulable and implicitly challenge our understanding of time's passing." —Maya C. Popa, Poetry Society of America ("The Poet's Nightstand")